It’s the perfect storm – my husband could eat Mexican for every meal. I could eat Italian. So here is the perfect marriage for the next Taco Tuesday (or any day) – Mexican Manicotti!
I like making this dish, especially on the days when I have more free time the night before or morning of and this will free up the usual dinner prep time. And with the warmer weather coming up, hopefully this means more outside time with the girls soaking up some sunny D instead of getting dinner ready!
A secret that makes this dish so easy is you do not cook the noodles or the meat!! Isn’t that the most irritating part any way? Cooking the noodles, letting them cool enough that they don’t stick – and then tear when you go to stuff them. And the cooking the meat and cleaning up all prep items. Instead, prepare this mexi-style mix, stuff into the uncooked noodles, then soak and bake. Simple! (And don’t worry about the meat sitting overnight. It is bathing in a nice marinade of (acidic) tomato sauce).
Now this dish can be quickly put together with a few items from your grocery store. However, if you are really feeling the “healthier” food groove, you can make your own refried beans, picante sauce and taco seasoning. My air-quoted word healthier in this context simply means, I know precisely what the ingredients are, can pronounce them and contain little to no preservatives.
The only one that really takes some serious thought to are the refried beans. They start from the dry form of pinto beans and need several hours (or overnight) to soak and cook up. Slow cookers are great for this. I have yet to get myself an Instant Pot (hello, Mother’s Day Gift Idea!), but I have seen recipes where it requires only around an hour. (Why don’t I own one yet?!?!?!).
In a pinch, you can substitute a can of beans, but I dare you to try making your own! Another alternative is a can of black beans, But I like the creamy texture of refried beans for Mexican Manicotti.
Make Your Own Refried Beans
There is nothing like homemade refried beans. So delicious and satisfying! I will admit, it takes some planning and must be thought through ahead of time, but when you make a large batch, there is usually enough to freeze and take out in time for making dinner.
Warning: You need at least overnight or about 6-8 hours in a slow cooker to make amazing homemade refried beans.
Slow Cooker Refried Beans Recipe ~
2 cups dried pinto beans, rinsed and cleaned
1 -2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 TBSP cumin
6 -8 Cups of water
Salt to taste
Place ingredients (start with 6 cups of water) in slow cooker. Cook on Med/High for 8 hours, or overnight. Peek in after about 5 -6 hours and add water if necessary. Beans will be plumb and near bursting. Mash with fork or potato masher to desired consistency.
Make your Own Taco Seasoning
Again, this is such an easy item to grab off the shelf. Either in bulk or packets. But what if I told you it’s even easier to make at home, and you probably have the ingredients in your pantry right now!
Taco Seasoning Recipe~
2 TBSP chili powder
2 TBSP cumin
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayanne pepper (or smoked paprika)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp oregano
This is a perfect portion to what you would buy in a seasoning packet, about 1/4 cup in measurement.
Mix all the ingredients in a small container to mix ingredients.
In the mixture, is the raw ground beef, (please feel free to use turkey or chicken), refried beans, taco seasoning and 1/2 cup of Mexican style cheese. Because who doesn’t love some cheesy Mexican Manicotti.
Give the mixture a good mash up and stuff your shells! I love using these food gloves to keep my hands clean and for ease of washing up.
Make Your own Picante Sauce
Before you run out to the store or add Picante Sauce to your list, first look how easy it is and I bet you have most of the ingredients in your cupboard. And doesn’t it always make you feel that much better knowing exactly what is in your food?
Homemade Picante Sauce
1 15 oz can Rotel lime with cilantro
1 15. oz can tomato sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp minced garlic
8 oz water
Heat in sauce pan and simmer until flavors blend and sauce begins to thicken.
Spread the Picante and water mixture over the stuffed noodles. Cover and place in fridge overnight – or for the day if making in the morning.
Remove the baking dish 30 minutes prior to baking. Cover pan in foil. Preheat over to 350° and bake for 1 hour. Spoon on 1 cup of sour cream and 1/2 cup to 1 cup of cheese and 1 small can of sliced olives. Bake 5 -10 minutes longer until sour cream and cheese are melted.
Additional toppings for the table are: Guacamole, avocado, cilantro or cotija cheese. Serve with Mexi style rice.
Mexican ManicottiPrint Recipe
- 1 lb ground lean beef, turkey or chicken (not cooked!)
- 1 1/2 cups refried beans (canned or home prepared)
- 1/4 cup homemade taco seasoning (or 1 packet)
- 1 package manicotti shells
- 1 jar picante sauce (or follow recipe above)
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup shredded Monterary Jack or Mexican blend cheese
- 1 jar sliced black olives
- 1 avocado
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1/4 cup cotija cheese
Combine uncooked beef, refried beans and taco seasoning. Scoop into uncooked manicotti shells and arrange in a 13x9 baking dish. Combine water and picante sauce. Pour over shells. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for the day.
Remove from fridge 30 minutes prior to baking. Preheat oven to 350º. Cover and bake for 1 hour. Uncover and spoon sour cream over the top and sprinkle with cheese and olives. Bake 5 – 10 minutes longer.